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Marked Man Reviews

Fueled by Roddy Piper's charisma and fast-paced direction, THE MARKED MAN is an above-average variation on Hitchcock's THE WRONG MAN (1956). True, the hero's escapades owe little to reality. But the movie carries a message about the siren call of recidivist criminality, and the script deftly portrays the protagonist's flawed psychological makeup. Reformed lawbreaker Frank Gibson (Roddy Piper) loses his hopes for a straight-arrow future when his fiancee is run over by a drunken motorist at Frank's gas station. In grief and vengeance, Frank punches the driver and accidentally kills him, and once again finds himself behind bars. Determined to serve his time without incident, Frank unfortunately witnesses the murder of jailed gangster Harvey Elkins (David Nichols) by two guards. Breaking out and running for his life, Frank decides to gather evidence against Elkins's assassins. Although FBI agent Kate Gallagher (Jane Wheeler) doubts that Frank was involved in the Elkins hit, the deck is stacked against fleeing Frank after he leaves his fingerprints all over the house of Pappas (Dennis O'Connor), one of the prison guards who killed Elkins. Pappas just has been wiped out by his employer, Vince Mallick (Miles O'Keeffe), as payback for the sloppiness of the Elkins slaying. Finding temporary refuge with his brother, Andy (Chris Bolton), Frank learns that Mallick works for Elkins's widow, Sylvia (Alina Thompson), whom Mallick is now blackmailing with an incriminating videotape. Frank steals the video, which contains proof of his own innocence, but he's forced to turn it over when Mallick kidnaps Andy. During an exchange at a train yard, Frank eventually slays Mallick, but not before Mallick destroys the tape. Frank then visits Sylvia at the Elkins estate and tricks her into confessing to orchestrating her husband's murder. THE MARKED MAN has enough dazzling action sequences so that the film's disregard for plausibility hardly matters. The most incisive aspect of the screenplay is its cynicism about how the law regards previous offenders like Frank and Andy. Frank's adversaries could have been portrayed more colorfully, but they're nasty enough for plot purposes in a film concerned with the vagaries of justice. Maximizing suspense in its feds-and-felons shoot-outs, THE MARKED MAN rewards viewers with a passable roadshow equivalent of the blockbuster, THE FUGITIVE (1993). (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, adult situations.)